Installing modern software for managing aircraft maintenance can save clerical time in double entry, enable much easier changes in MRO processes than patchwork legacy systems and make it easier to recruit IT staff than legacy software that no one wants to work on.
But the big gains are reaped when an airline adjusts its maintenance processes to exploit the full power of the new software. China Airlines has been doing that with IFS’s Maintenix application for five years now, and the carrier estimates it is saving $3.5 million a year compared with the old ways of doing maintenance.
Houng Wang, head of engineering at CAL, says legacy mainframe systems could not deliver data insights critical to achieving efficiencies. “Systems were siloed from each other, operated their own processes for capturing and storing data.” It was tough to share timely maintenance data across the organization.
CAL began implementing Maintenix in early 2011 and went live with 12 months later. The airline has upgraded the software frequently and a few months ago upgraded to version 8.2 of Maintenix. The software covers all of CAL’s fleet of 83 Airbus A350-900s and A330-300s and Boeing 777-300ERs, 747-400s, 737-800s and 747-400Fs. CAL’s maintenance shop also uses Maintenix for third-party customers such as Korean Air, Cathay, Singapore, FedEx and Iberia. In all 1,600 users work with the software, including many on mobile devices such as tablet PCs. Maintenix supports electronic signatures, but CAL does not use this capability yet.
In order to make sure Maintenix runs smoothly and its implementation is hitting targets, CAL does a time-quality-cost assessment every month of Maintenix impacts on 18 operational metrics. The latest assessment estimates Maintenix enabled $3.5 million in annual engineering and maintenance savings. These savings included $560,000 from a 10% increase in line management efficiency, $213,000 from a 3% increase in A check efficiency, $1.4 million from reducing hangar time for scheduled maintenance by 30 days and $1.1 million from reducing hangar time by 25 days for unscheduled maintenance.
Southwest Airlines, with nearly 700 aircraft, is supposed to implement Maintenix in 2018. If savings scale up with fleet count, the gains could eventually represent nearly $30 million a year, or slightly less than 2% of the airline’s MRO cost. That’s serious money for just changing software.